The game of Mao is eminently worth learning. But teaching someone the rules of Mao is Not Done. One learns only by watching, and by playing. Watch your first game here...
This way back to the Card Room
Last update: August 15, 1998
Five young ladies have taken seats at the Card Room's Big Round Table. Amanda is shuffling two standard decks of 52 cards together. Their backs don't match; nobody cares. They could use a different number of decks, or of players.
At Amanda's left is Beth, a less experienced player. Continuing clockwise around the table we find Clarissa (a skilled veteran), Diane (who has played a couple of times), and Erin (clueless for now). All five are blondes, so don't go there...
Amanda deals five cards to each player, face down. The remainder are stacked in the center, also face down, and
Erin picks up her cards. Clarissa looks to Amanda, then takes the top card from the pile and slides it over to Erin. "Premature peeking." Erin looks round, sees no help, and takes the proffered card. Her eyes narrow, and her hand is now at six. She sets her cards down.
Amanda announces, "This round of Mao begins with me, and proceeds to my left." She turns over a card from the top of the pile. The Four of Diamonds graces the center of the Big Round Table.
Amanda picks up her hand of cards, and all follow her example--Erin being the last.
Beth quickly puts the Nine of Diamonds on top, also face up.
Clarissa contributes a Six of Diamonds to the growing face-up pile.
Diane plays the Six of Spades.
Erin nods...she's starting to understand...and reaches for her card. But Clarissa reaches for the face down pile, and slides a card to Diane. "Failure to announce." Diane grimaces and takes the card.
Erin glances around the table. On seeing Amanda's slight nod, she completes her play of the Six of Hearts.
Amanda plays a Jack of Hearts. Clarissa and Diane both call out. "Clubs!" "Spades!"
Beth sounds off, too. "Point of Order!"
Everyone puts down their cards. Beth speaks up. "Which one was first?" Amanda says, "Clubs. Clarissa was first." Erin nods agreement.
Beth sighs. "Okay. End point of order." Everyone picks up their cards again. "Penalty card," Beth continues, as she draws a card from the pile.
Clarissa triumphantly bangs down the Three of Clubs.
Diane follows up with the Seven of Clubs. After a moment, Beth slides Diane yet another card off the top of the face-down stack. "Failure to say, 'Have a nice day!'"
Erin, in a bemused fog, plays a King of Clubs.
Amanda lays down the King of Spades, and says, "King of Spades."
Beth plays her Ace of Spades, saying, "Ace of Spades."
Clarissa takes a long time to figure out a play. Then, she slides Diane another face-down card. "Failure to play within five seconds."
Diane: "Oh, s**t, I forgot." Amanda reaches for a new face-down card, and slides that one to Diane as well. "Cursing," she says.
Diane gestures to Erin to play, earning a dirty look from Clarissa but no card. Erin offers a tense half-smile, and plays the Eight of Spades. "Eight of Spades."
Diane looks at Amanda, then surprises Erin by playing the Seven of Spades and saying, "Seven of Spades. Have a nice day."
Clarissa adds in a Seven of Diamonds. "Have a very nice day." Erin wants to speak up, but decides to keep a low profile.
Beth plays an Ace of Diamonds, saying nothing.
For a couple of seconds, play stops dead. Then Erin gets a horrified look on her face, and hurriedly pulls out her Two of Diamonds. It appears to be just in time. Clarissa shouts, "Hearts."
Diane plays an Eight of Diamonds. Clarissa frowns at Diane, who impudently sticks her tongue out in reply.
Erin takes a face-down card and slides it to Diane. "Wrong suit, it's Hearts."
Diane slides the card back to Erin. "Bad call." Everyone else nods agreement; Erin looks puzzled. A moment later, Clarissa slides Erin another card from the face-down pile. "Failure to play within five seconds."
Erin makes a face.
Amanda offers up her Three of Diamonds.
Beth plays the Queen of Diamonds.
Clarissa plays a Queen of Hearts, and says, "Last card."
Amanda gets a big smile, grabs a face-down card from the pile, and slides it daintily to Clarissa. "Failure To Announce." Clarissa snatches up the card, looking disgusted.
Diane tosses out her Five of Hearts. "Five of Hearts."
Erin chimes in, "Five of Spades," while playing the Five of Spades.
Both Amanda and Clarissa pounce on the pile; Clarissa gets there first, and slides a card to Erin. "Unnecessary talking."
Amanda plays the Ten of Spades. "Last card," she says.
Beth winces, says "Penalty card," and draws a card from the stack.
Clarissa draws, too. "Penalty card."
Diane drops an Ace of Spades.
Erin doesn't even get a chance to react, as an excited Amanda plops down the Ace of Hearts, her last card. She exclaims, "Mao!"
Erin thinks for a second, then timidly takes a card from the center stack and slides it to Amanda. Her words sound more like a question than a statement. "Failure to announce?" And the rest of the players brighten up, as Amanda realizes her error. Beth gets another card to slide to Amanda. "Invoking the Great Leader without cause." Amanda now has two cards.
Eventually Amanda recovers, and wins the round. While Beth gathers the cards and shuffles for the new round, Amanda gets to secretly make up a new rule to add in for the rest of the session. She decides that any player who plays a card in a new suit must say "Moo." Amanda announces, "New rule in play." Beth then deals five cards to each player, announces, "This round of Mao begins with me, and proceeds to my left," and turns up a Ten of Clubs.
And the game continues...
I call the style of Mao played here the Motor City variant. It is derivative of the Waterloo variant, Toronto subtype, as demonstrated on Ka Wai Tam's Mao pages. I learned the game from his samples of play without meeting their groups. We have introduced two local changes (one procedural, one a popular invented rule) intentionally, and the usual unintentional deviations.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org